Ezekiel’s prophecy, and in particular his vision of the new temple, included numerous references to “waters” (Ezekiel 47). The Hebrew word translated waters, mayim identifies water as one of the basic substances that existed on earth before creation (4325). In other words, water may have been perceived to be like God, an eternal substance that was indestructible. Water was also thought to be synonymous with life. The term living water was used by Jesus to refer to salvation or eternal life. Speaking to a woman who was drawing water from a well, Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).
In another instance, Jesus referred to himself as living water. He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The practice of baptism that was established by John the Baptist prior to Jesus’ ministry was linked to purification from sin (Mark 1:4). Prior to that, no one was ever immersed into water (4325). It could be that Ezekiel’s vision of the river that flowed from the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12) was symbolic of purification or it may have been an essential source of life that was meant to sustain God’s people. One of the unique characteristics of the river that flowed from the temple was that it was a stream fed by no tributaries and yet it increased in size as it flowed outward (Ezekiel 47:5 and note).
Ezekiel’s angelic guide took him to a point in the river where it was no longer possible to cross over from one side of the stream of water to the other, about a mile from the temple structure (Ezekiel 47:5). Then he brought him to the brink of the river. Ezekiel recorded, “Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:7-9).
The Hebrew word translated healed in Ezekiel 47:9, raphah (raw – faw´) means a restoring to normal, an act which God typically performs (7495). It is likely that the waters that flow from the temple will be necessary to restore the land to normal after the world is devastated during the tribulation. Revelation 7:1-17 pictures the resurrected saints standing before the throne of Jesus Christ. John, the recorder of the vision, was asked about the identity of those that were present. To which he replied, “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” He went on to say, “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:14, 17).